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Hair care company Ettenio makes bigger push for exports

Published:Sunday | March 1, 2015 | 12:00 AMTameka Gordon
File Ettenio natural hair and skin care products.

Local skin and hair-care company, Ettenio, is boosting production ahead of a push into exports to the Caribbean to tap a growing demand for herbal and natural products in the Caribbean.

Launched in 2012, Ettenio, which plays on the name of its proprietor, Antoinette Palmer-Davis, wants to meet demand for her products, which she says has grown 30-fold since their debut.

Personal care is a new business for Palmer-Davis, who is a partner with her husband in construction company Big Ben Tiles, based in Manchester.

"I started in my kitchen making eight bottles per product but now I am making up 230 bottles per product," Palmer-Davis told Sunday Business.

Ettenio produces up to 50 cases of product per day, she adds, each containing 12 bottles.

While noting the consumer demand for natural skin and haircare products, Palmer-Davis said Ettenio started out supplying Fontana Pharmacy in Mandeville then branched out to the pharmacy's other locations.

Its distribution has expanded even further to natural product stores across Jamaica, but is yet to find channels in Hanover and a few eastern parishes.

Customers that tried the product would return to the stores to ask for more, according to Palmer-Davis, who adds that the retailers would in turn encourage her to increase production and up their supplies.

"I remember I approached a particular beauty supply store and she said, 'give me a case of everything,' and I thought, but I'm not there yet," she said.

"We started with one line called the Classics which now has nine products. We are up to about four lines now with an average of six products each. So based on the demand we are growing," she said.

Locally, oversight for skin and haircare companies falls under the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) and the Ministry of Health's Standards and Regulation Division.

However, Sunday Business did not receive responses from these agencies on how they monitor these companies or what approvals are needed.

Additionally, though an increase was noted in the number of new entrants, precise numbers on the size and value of the hair and skin care sector was unavailable up to press time.

Palmer-Davis said Ettenio's labels were certified by the BSJ, while the health ministry signed off on its manufacturing processes.

To get started, the computing major who holds a minor in chemistry, used the BSJ's facility to test her products.

build capacity

The growth of the company has been spurred by social media which she uses to push sales as well as an online store, with orders now coming from as far away as Japan and the United Kingdom.

"We use the Jamaica Postal Service and people are willing to wait the 10 days. Sometimes in London and Birmingham, they get it in five days," she said.

Asked what it took to get the business off the ground, Palmer-Davis said only that it "was nowhere near half a million". Additional sums have since been pumped into the business, she said, to build capacity.

Ettenio is now sold in the Cayman Islands through a local distributor and the company exports to the United States "on a small scale". Now Palmer-Davis says hopes to get a foothold in Panama, Costa Rica and Barbados.

"There is also interest from the Turks and Caicos islands as well," she said.

In Jamaica, Ettenio has also tapped the hotel spa market with customised formulations, and is hoping to expand that side of the business into overseas sales.

With exports now taking 10 per cent of production, Palmer-Davis said Ettenio has set its sights on tapping the "higher end" of the cosmetics market.

"We have not yet tapped into the higher end of the market. Currently, those who are using our products are those who are into healthy haircare. But the higher end tend to bring in their own products or buy the imported products, so we want to target them and let them know it's just as good or better," she said.